Learning to ride dressage requires eyes on the ground. I need cues to better align the horse in nearly every transition. While it is a solitary sport it isn’t like a runner who can truly go the distance solo. We need a partner to help us develop our position correctly, which will get the horse to use his body correctly. Mirrors help an educated rider see what adjustments are necessary, but for someone like me starting out I find myself one half of an equation and extremely needy. Needy is not a feeling I cozy up to and nuzzle.
It’s difficult to find a correct trainer for dressage, someone who will commit to helping me reach my goals, put up with my weaknesses, work with my schedule, and practice a patience that is neither human nor equine but more like divine. I find if I don’t take two lessons a week I develop bad habits before half the month is gone.
There are many reasons I appreciate my trainer. She has three of her own horses that she’s developing and she remains an avid student herself. I respect anyone who has achieved a high level and yet remains a student. She doesn’t condescend my efforts or criticize the level of riding I’m capable of producing. She knows I’m pushing myself and doing my best. She also cares about the sport and does her part to raise the next generation of good riders. My favorite quality is that she doesn’t teach for the test. She is no doubt a dressage queen but she isn’t preaching the patterns of dressage because she believes that if we can get the horse to give us his whole body, and we use our position to move it where we want it to go, then he can ride any pattern. (If only it were that simple. As the saying goes, it takes two life times to learn to do dressage.)
I don’t want to learn to ride dressage for the sole purpose of riding a perfect test. In fact I don’t have much interest in the show environment for my own riding. If I can reach a point where my horse’s body submits to my aids and his energy is mine to rate I’m quite sure we can hit any point on the geometry of the arena. That would be thrilling enough for me. And if my trainer says well done that’s an 8 then I’ll rest my boots for the day and give my friend a carrot knowing we succeeded.
I find myself enthralled with the triangle of partnership between rider, horse and trainer. It’s as delicate as a marriage some times. When my trainer picks up a whip while I’m riding I want to dash out of the arena! But I trust her to show my horse what my aids are meant to produce and I trust my horse that he’s not going to buck and bolt in protest to her added aid. And then in the very next ride don’t I reap the reward of more reach from the hind legs? I do. And it was because she was there to help us.
Imagine my conflicted heart when my trainer told me this week she’s not going to teach any more beginning in January. She has personal goals for her own horses that aren’t being met because she’s spending so much time training others and running the boarding facility. I’m so happy for her and yet the sense of feeling cut loose gives me a vulnerable screech of worry. One partner is leaving the relationship for all the right reasons. So I need the courage to trust I’ll find another trainer to help Jack and I reach our equestrian goals. Change is good so they say.
I’m a woman of faith. I go along the road of life hand in hand with God and when an obvious block in the path comes my way he has always been faithful to provide an alternate route. I’ve walked a crooked path for 47 years following a loving all knowing God so I’m sure this change in route will be a blessing. I am absolutely sure his way is better than mine. What I won’t do is wrangle the situation like a cowgirl. I’ll wait, watch, pray, and seek the heavenly nod that I’m going in the right direction. Long ago I gave up the passion for wanting what I want more than I want what God wants for my life. My way is always the dead end. God’s way has proven itself to be a journey of growth and expansion. I can peacefully trust he has something just right lined up for me and Rudy. What I am learning in dressage is integral to my education as a leader of the organization I run in Africa. I believe God has used my education with horses to help me do the work he’s given us to do with orphans in a dark dark place. Daily I take in the lessons from an equine partnership and it makes me the very best I can be for our organization. This is no trivial pursuit. He will bring to my life a trainer who can appreciate how very much I want to learn this most difficult dance.